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Late work, special consideration, and no-disadvantage assessment

It is easy to fall behind during the semester, especially when you have to plan a lot of work on your own. Falling behind or being late isn’t bad, as long as you catch up. When you fall behind, it is really important to do two things: (1) stick to your weekly routine, and (2) talk to us, your tutors and teachers, in class, in office hours, or by email to let us know what is going on.

This semester, we are operating with some slightly different policies for your assignments and for your final grades. We want to be as flexible as possible, and to give each student an opportunity to do their best possible work within the semester. So, no matter how far you fall behind, you can still catch up and you can still get credit for all the effort you put into your classwork. Here are some ways we will support you in doing your best possible work.

Special consideration, special arrangement, and extensions: Pandemic edition

When you get sick or you are unable to study for reasons beyond your control (when you have a “misadventure” as the university likes to call it), you can apply for “special consideration” (SC) for an assignment. In this class, where we mainly assign papers with a deadline, the “consideration” you would normally get would be an extension of time to submit your work. Similarly, when you have to attend a funeral or participate in “essential community commitments” (military service, the Olympics, etc.) that keep you from working on your assignments, you can apply for a “special arrangement” (SA). SA is like SC in this class; you get an extension for the time you are away.

In this special semester, the rules about SC have changed. Normally you would have to provide documentation of your illness or misfortune that includes the dates that you were unable to study or work on classwork. This semester, you only have to submit a signed statement describing your situation and the dates that you have been unable to study. SA still requires documentation with dates, but there are exceptions for exams (which does not apply in this class).

You don’t have to go this route. If you cannot turn in your work on time, tell your tutor by email and ask for a “simple extension.” We only ask that you let us know as soon as possible, before the deadline, and that you propose a date when you can commit to submitting your work. Simple!

We would much rather that students stay in touch with us about how they are doing in all of their work throughout the semester. As long as we know you are working, and that you have a plan for completing your work to the best of your ability, then you can submit your work late.

Late penalties and the “no-disadvantage” rule for Semester 2, 2020

Normally, if you submit an assignment after the deadline, you would lose 5 points out of 100 per day (including weekends) it is late. In 2020, we are applying a rule that no student should be disadvantaged in their final grades by the unique circumstances of studying during a public health emergency.

The main way we will apply the “no-disadvantage” rule for figuring your final grades in this class is by exercising as much discretion as possible when it comes to late penalties. It is always worth it to submit your assignments, even if they are really late. We want to read them, and we want to give you feedback, and we want to give you credit for what you did.

We would like it, though, if you keep in contact with your tutor when you get behind. If we see that you have missed some deadlines or fallen behind on your weekly checklists, we will send you an email to see how you’re doing.

Everyone still has to do all five major assignments in the class in order to finish the class. We will want to see that everyone has been consistently making an effort each week to keep up with the class by looking at whether you’re keeping up with the weekly checklists and quiz questions.

Above all, our guiding principle in this class is that each student should have an opportunity to do their best possible work.

Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good

The assignments in this class are designed to be stepping stones to bigger and better things. No single assignment is a make-or-break, be-all-and-end-all event of a lifetime. Each of the writing assignments, for instance, has a single, pretty simple objective. Keep this in mind as you write your first draft and revise it. It does not have to be perfect. It only has to show us what you have learned and how far your thinking has developed at this moment in time. We don’t give 100s for essays, no matter how good they are, because there is no such thing as a 100 essay. (And, for the record, I never got a 100 on an essay.) These assignments are most valuable collectively as a form of practice in the skill of reasoning.

Consider this: I recently learned that it is customary for weavers of handmade rugs in several different cultures to deliberately include a tiny mistake—a clashing color, or a line that extends a little too far—so that the rug will not look too perfect (Patowary 2017). Navajo weavers call these “spirit lines.” Persian weavers include the same kinds of deliberate mistakes so that their rugs do not offend God’s perfection. You can apply the same idea to any kind of creative work. For instance, I like to bring up examples from Star Trek: The Next Generation in my lectures. In fact, I learned about deliberate imperfections from one episode, when a character used the faintly problematic term “Persian flaw” for this custom (“Persian Flaw” 2020). I wouldn’t suggest that you intentionally put errors into your written work, but I do think it is good to remember that an essay only has to be your best effort, and never has to be perfect. Each essay you write in your undergraduate career will be better than the last one. Focus on making progress in your skills of thinking rather than worry about what a single assignment represents.


Patowary, Kaushik. 2017. “The Art of Deliberate Imperfection.” Amusing Planet. August 28. https://www.amusingplanet.com/2017/08/the-art-of-deliberate-imperfection.html.

“Persian Flaw.” 2020. Memory Alpha. June 4. https://memory-alpha.fandom.com/wiki/Persian_flaw.

1002/2020/late-work.txt · Last modified: 2020/08/18 19:53 by Ryan Schram (admin)